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Northern Ireland Locked-In?

Back in September, Northern Ireland Screen, who played a leading role in bringing Game of Thrones to Northern Ireland, had a board meeting where it was revealed that a “2nd series for Game of Thrones was already under strong consideration.” It went on to state that “securing” that season to be produced in Northern Ireland could well depend on the NI Screen hurrying along the process of expanding studio space by Summer 2011.

Now we finally have the December minutes for the meeting that followed, where CEO Richard Williams apparently began by touching back on that discussion:

CEO remains optimistic about Game of Thrones series 2 going ahead in Northern Ireland. A formal decision by HBO is likely in January.

It follows with discussion of plans going ahead to expand studio space, with a suitable site found in the Titanic Quarter (where Paint Hall is located). Given that NI Screen gave this prime importance, it certainly looks like HBO was looking to lock-in Northern Ireland as the filming location if it was happy with the facilities, services, and crew that were available. And given the recent report from Variety, it certainly seems as if plans have gone forward with the assumption that if the show is green-lit (we can’t emphasize this enough—if, because HBO has recently confirmed that it has made no decision at this time) for a second season, it will definitely be filming primarily in Northern Ireland.

Further down, another detail caught our eye, namely the fact that the board was working to convince the government to give tax breaks to TV Dramas that are similar to what are offered to film productions. Up to recently, we had believed HBO had benefited from these tax breaks, but the Variety report linked earlier was the first to make it plain that this was not the case. The fact that NI Screen wants the tax breaks extended to dramas could be a big deal for HBO if the production goes into multiple seasons. As production costs tend to rise for most productions over time, it would be a big incentive to any production facing rising costs to suddenly have a bit of a windfall in terms of a significant tax break on any spending carried out in Ireland.

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